Building Sustainable Communities:
Tools and Concepts for Self-Reliant Economic Change

Benello, C. George; Swann, Robert; Turnbull, Shann; Morehouse, Ward (ed.)
Publisher:  Bootstrap Press, New York, NY 10017 USA, USA
Year Published:  1989   First Published:  1983
Pages:  200pp   ISBN:  ISBN 0-942850-11-4
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX3780

Presents the underlying ideas and essential institutions for building sustainable communities. The major sections of the book deal with community land trusts and other forms of community ownership of natural resources, worker-managed enterprises and other techniques of community self-management, and community currency and banking. Also included are a lexicon of social capitalism and a bibliography of key works on self-reliant economic change.

Abstract:  Building Sustainable Communities is a revised edition of a work previously published in 1983, based on the Schumacher Society Seminars on Community Economic Transformation. This work is formulated in response to neo-liberal economic and social policies and their inability to address issues such as unemployment, poverty and ever-widening income gaps. The authors provide a conceptual framework and tools for implementing alternative economic systems based on community ownership, production and exchange.

The book is divided into three main sections. The first section, Community Stewardship of Land and Natural Resources, discusses models of community ownership in opposition to state or private ownership. Community Land Trusts are a specific focus, as models for production informed by environmentalism with an emphasis on sustainable development. The second section, Community Self-Management, proposes systems of community shared ownership tied to more equitable models of work and income distribution. The term "social capitalism" is put forth for this departure from capitalism, socialism and communism. This is part of an approach that does not outright reject private property market economies, but instead, seeks to re-write corporate ownership rules. The third section, Community Currency and Banking, begins with a historical account of how we have arrived at a system of exchange dominated by paper money rather than commodity exchange. Consumable or service-based units of currency are proposed as alternative community currencies such as energy, in the form of kilowatt hours, or labour. Strategies for developing community banking systems to allow for the use of these alternative currencies are discussed also.

Uncounted individuals already operate outside the official system of exchange, through barter or un-taxed labour for instance. Economic crisis and the inadequacy of government responses provide impetus for change and Building Sustainable Communities demonstrates the possibility of theorising and enacting alternative economic systems.

Table of Contents


1. The World Crisis and Community Economic Revitalization
2. Root Causes of the World's Economic Breakdown

Community Stewardship of Land and Natural Resources
3. Alternatives to Ownership: Land Trusts as Land Reform
4. The Community Impact of Land Trusts
5. Different Types of Land Trusts
6. Comparison of Community Land Trusts and Land Conservation Trusts
7. Land Conservation Trusts
8. Community Land Trusts
9. Underlying Concepts and Principles
10. Structure and Method of Operation
11. Some Examples of Community Land Trusts
12. Forest Land Trusts
13. The Cooperative Land Bank Concept
14. Comparison of Community Land Trusts and Cooperative Land Banks
15. World Resources Trusteeship

Community Self-Management
16. Social Capitalism as the Road to Community Self-Management
17. Economic Behavior and Self-Management: Some Governing Principles
18. Workplace Democratization
19. Worker-Managed Enterprises: Legal Shells, Structures, and Financing
20. Other Methods for Enhancing Community Self-Management
21. The Lexicon of Social Capitalism
Glossary of Terms

Community Currency and Banking
22. What Everyone Should Know about Banking and Money (Especially Bankers and Economists)
23. Elements of Autonomous Banking
24. Creating a Community Currency
25. Building a Community Banking System
26. Community Financing and Resource Optimization